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June 28, 2005

Chorus Takes the Honors

The Australian:

The success or failure of the Missa Solemnis rests largely on the quality of the choral singing, so it was indeed a coup to have the London Philharmonic Choir bring its experience and musicianship to bear in this extraordinary work. Supplemented with members of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, this combined choir was the star of the show.

Throughout Beethoven's difficult score the choir was assured in its delivery, demonstrating remarkable unanimity and an impressive range of tonal colour. Particularly noteworthy were the fugal passages and the energetic declamation in the work's extrovert sections, such as the finale to the Gloria. The singing was equally successful in more reflective moments, such as the et incarnatus est, where the hushed, barely audible lead-in from the tenors was one of the evening's highlights. The sopranos also deserve special mention for their finesse and unwavering control in the very high tessitura.

In comparison to the excellence of the choral singing, the quartet of soloists was disappointing. The singing was inconsistent, lacking rhythmic assurance and tonal balance. In particular, soprano Rebecca Nash struggled at times with her difficult part and was often drowned out in the ensemble. Only Elizabeth Campbell shone with a musically and stylistically satisfying performance.

Matthias Bamert presided over events with an air of cool authority. He showed a clear grasp of the music's architecture, navigating through the work without drawing undue attention to its sectionalised form. It was only in the sublime Benedictus that I found Bamert's tempo too hurried and unsettled.

Posted by acapnews at June 28, 2005 12:13 AM